by Alan Everett
Anglers can look forward to another exceptional snapper catch in Port Phillip Bay this spring.
Scientists from Fisheries Victoria are predicting the 2011-12 season will be a repeat of recent years, although catches will be moderate over the next three years.
Researcher Paul Hamer said scientists were able to forecast the likely performance of the fishery based on the number of baby snapper that settled in Port Phillip Bay each year.
'Baby snapper settle in the Bay during the late summer and early autumn following the summer spawning season and this settlement determines the size of the catch in years to come,' Mr Hamer said.
'Snapper spawned in Port Phillip Bay are the mainstay of Victoria’s ‘western snapper stock’ extending from Wilsons Promontory to the mouth of the Murray River.'
Snapper is one of the most highly prized fish caught in Victoria by recreational and commercial fishers.
Every year from late spring to early summer anglers launch boats all around Port Phillip Bay to catch snapper as they migrate into the bay for their annual spawning season.
'The successful spawning and survival of young snapper in the bay varies greatly from year to year,' Mr Hamer said.
'Ten to twenty fold variations are common and this variation influences future catches.
'We know these variations are related to factors influencing the snapper during their first few weeks of life.'
Ongoing research is determining how water temperature, nutrient supply, river flows and currents influence the food supply, growth and survival of baby snapper in the Bay.
Interviews with anglers revealed last year more than 80 percent of snapper caught were above 1kg and were at least 40cm long.
One in four were big reds that weighed more than 3kg and were at least 60cm.
DPI Victoria Fisheries website